Kick-off Countdown: Inside UEFA EURO 2024's Stadium Preparations

An interview with Christoph Meyer - Director of Events and Communications 

© Olympiastadion Berlin GmbH

As the countdown to UEFA Euro 2024 draws closer, the spotlight shines on Olympia Stadion Berlin, a venue steeped in history and poised to host one of football's most prestigious tournaments.  

In this interview with Mr. Christoph Meyer, Director of Events and Communications at Olympia Stadion, we delve into the preparations and extensive upgrades undertaken to ensure a memorable and seamless experience for players, spectators, and stakeholders alike. With insights into security measures, accessibility initiatives, sustainability efforts, and final preparations, the dialogue paints a comprehensive picture of Olympia Stadion's readiness to welcome the UEFA Euro 2024.  

ESSMA: Mr. Meyer, could you please introduce yourself to the ESSMA community, what is your role at Olympia Stadion and what is your previous experience? 

Mr. Meyer: My name is Christoph Meyer and I'm the Director of Events and Communications at the Olympia Stadion Berlin. I've been working here in various positions since April 2005, and I joined the management team at the end of 2017.  

In addition to corporate communications, I'm responsible for the company's entire event operations. For example, since 2008, I'm responsible for the DFB Cup final or for the Champions League final in 2015, but also other events such as concerts or athletic events. Corporate events and tourism on-site also fall within my responsibility. As part of the EURO 2024, I'm the main contact for the tournament organisation team here in the stadium in Berlin. Before I came to Berlin in 2005 to work on the 2006 FIFA World Cup, I worked in PR with a focus on the event industry.  

Infrastructure Evolution: Preparing the Stadium for the Spotlight. 

ESSMA: With now just about two months to go to the start of UEFA Euro 2024, what is the current situation of the stadium infrastructure? What kind of preparations have you taken, both in terms of stadium infrastructure as  well as the organisational part of the team? 

Mr. Meyer: We are now in the final phase of the event preparation; the final construction work is underway, and UEFA's temporary structures work began already on Easter Monday. The stadium infrastructure is in a very good condition. We've been working towards this event since 2017. That was the year in which we qualified as a venue in the nationwide competition before beating Turkey as a candidate in 2018. 
So planning started at that time. We have therefore already been able to carry out a lot of work in previous years. We replaced the giant screens and we installed a third one. We installed a completely new sound system in the roof. We switched to the full-colour floodlight and the famous colourful light we have in the roof.
In 2022, we installed a full stadium-wide coverage Wi-Fi throughout the stadium.  

And in 2023, we also installed our new full height turnstiles for security reasons. It was really from the bidding ongoing until now that we installed from time-to-time new technical things inside the stadium grounds. And of course, our team muscled up. We right now are 30 staff members here at Berlin's Olympic Stadium for the stadium operator company only. Which is around a third more than we had before we started. 

ESSMA: Olympiastadion Berlin is lucky enough to host a final. How does that differ from the other hosting venues? What kind of extra preparations do you have to make? 

Mr. Meyer: Generally speaking, I think the first priority, whether you have the final or not, is that you have to fulfill the tournament requirements from the application. And if you're clever about it, the next step is to plan the measures in such a way that other events also benefit from them. So that our club Hertha BSC retains a legacy out of it.  

An important point in any stadium is certainly the toilets. That's why we've increased capacity by a total of 70% in the lower tier and by around 30% in the entire stadium. The barrier-free toilets, we increased as much as 250%. That's quite a challenge, because in Berlin, we are a listed building. So, it's protected by landmark protection, and every step has to be planned very carefully. But we have very clever engineers. However, this is still not enough for the final. For the final, you need to add temporary toilet containers as well.  

Whether you have the final or not, a lot of work will not be noticed by the visitors because a lot of technology has been upgraded in the background. For example, in the area of electricity or wiring. What you will see for the final is the huge media village for the TV host broadcaster and the additional tents for thousands of hospitality guests that are built up right next to the stadium. These are really big topics to handle.  

I think you can say for the final, everything simply has to be taken to the next level, especially in terms of size and security. And that's why everybody involved is working closely with the authorities. And in total we have spent around €27 million on-site for all the measures that have been taken. 

Safety and Security: Measures for UEFA EURO 2024 

ESSMA: You mentioned security being very important. One of the things that you did to prepare for possible issues is introducing full height turnstiles. What other kind of preparations have you taken to ensure security and safety during the final?  

Mr. Meyer: There are two different ways we do it. On one hand, we are in close contact with the authorities in Berlin. There's a meeting once per month. And of course, we are in contact with the security officers from UEFA and from the EURO 2024 GmbH, which is the implementation company here in Germany.  

From an infrastructure point of view: The turnstiles are one matter. We will have all the new camera technology here on site. Crowd management is an essential factor, especially since fan walks will also be fashionable during the EURO. We're expecting the Netherlands to have a huge fan walk here in Berlin. Here also, the event organiser is in contact with the authorities and us, and also with Berlin as a host city.
They have even hired a so-called “last kilometer manager” who will be responsible for all matters relating to the stadium surrounding areas.  

Everything that you normally have to do during a tournament like this will of course also be done in Berlin, like bomb sweeps, like an outer security perimeter...  And of course, most of the security measures will never be told to the public, but I can assure you they are there. 

Accessibility and Inclusivity: Opening Doors for All 

ESSMA: The UEFA tournament wants to be an inclusive one. So, what kind of preparations have you taken to ensure that accessibility and inclusivity is there for all fans during the tournament? 

Mr. Meyer: We did quite a lot to be honest, it was really a major focus point. We have built easy access seats. We built 348 of them with more space for everybody. If you bring a walking aid or you just need more space for any physical reason they have better accessibility. We have special handrails. We are also right now implementing a digital signage information system to improve the stadium experience. This will create added value on several levels like wayfinding, directional signage, advertising, and entertainment. 

For our concession stands, we are lowering the windows, so wheelchair users and children have better access to them. And finally, we have completely modernised and expanded our wheelchair spaces. There are no longer any visibility restrictions.  And instead of 168 seats, we now have 228 seats. So that's more than a 30% increase. And what we are proud of is that all of these measures, the easy access seat, concession stands, wheelchair spaces...  will not be dismantled after the tournament. It's permanent, it will stay after the EURO and will be used during the DFB Cup final and all the Hertha matches, of course. 

ESSMA: UEFA also highlights one other topic in their organisation of the tournament which is sustainability. What kind of preparations have you done in terms of increasing the sustainability of the stadium for the tournament and afterwards? 

Mr. Meyer: I should certainly mention our new photovoltaic system on the stadium roof. It covers 13 percent of our annual electricity consumption. We had a large-scale conversion to LED light in the whole stadium. We have 100% green electricity. We use reusable cups. We use waterless urinals, and we have a closed recycling loop for paper towels. So every paper towel is recycled 100%. And I think we have probably the biggest water tank that a European stadium can have underground. We collect all the water from the roof and use it for the watering of our pitch and also the outside areas. 

Countdown to Kick-off: Final Milestones and Readiness Checks 

ESSMA:  What are the key milestones and the remaining tasks that you still have to do up until that date?  

Mr. Meyer:  In general, we are in a phase where it's just a matter of getting all the planning, all the efforts of the last few years now onto the road. It's a very important time, for us as stadium operator, but we are well on time. We had a lot of night shifts after the Cup Final in May because we needed a very quick conversion from the DFB Cup final to the EURO setup.  

Everybody in our team has been working very hard on this project without any time to rest, so we are really looking forward to that moment when the tournament starts, and we can see all of our hard work pay off.  



© Reiher & Seidel